Photo: Grandbaby Cakes
Dessert is in Jocelyn Delk Adams’s DNA. But being born into a family of master bakers has its drawbacks: Although she was taught to bake at an early age—and in adulthood, often made cakes for coworkers’ birthdays and anniversaries—Adams always believed her talent paled in comparison to that of her mother, aunts, and grandmother.
"I would always think, ‘Oh, the women in my family, they’re the bakers,’” Adams told us. It wasn’t until her early 30s that she began to truly embrace her inherited skills. In 2012, she started the baking blog Grandbaby Cakes, and her Southern-inflected, whimsical recipes have since appeared on sites such as Food52, Design Sponge, Parade, and Refinery29.
"I don’t think my family ever figured that I would do this professionally," she told us. "It’s just something that we do: The kids are ushered through this process of being in the kitchen and learning these recipes. It’s kind of like encouraging a kid to ride a bike. [Later,] I realized that I had the baking gene, and I could offer something, too.”
Here are a few more things to know about this natural baker.
1. Adams’s blog is an homage to her grandmother (who calls her “grandbaby”).
"I’ve always been inspired by my grandmother—I’ve learned so much about baking from her. Growing up, I always looked forward to going to visit her in Mississippi, and once there, the thing I most looked forward to was spending time in the kitchen and watching the women bake. I was probably more of a nuisance than anything when I was younger, but they were patient with me."
2. Her grandmother—who she calls “Big Mama”—invented most of her own recipes.
"My grandmother didn’t even know her mother, because she died when she was a baby. She was the youngest child of 15, and while her siblings were out working in the fields or milking cows, she was the one charged with making lunch for them and her dad. She wound up creating all of these recipes."
Adams and her grandmother. Photo: Grandbaby Cakes
3. The first thing Adams learned to bake was her mom’s signature 7 Up poundcake.
"I was maybe 7 or 8 when I started making it. People were like, ‘This is as good as your mom’s!’ Then I started experimenting. For example, I would add a strawberry swirl that went through it. I like to do that: Take the traditional things I grew up with and throw in different flavors.”
4. Speaking of experimenting, she does a lot of it.
"My grandmother makes an old-fashioned chocolate cake, but I turned the recipe into something I call a "Mississippi Mudslide Cake." [It’s like a cross between] a mudslide cocktail (which I happen to love) and Mississippi mud pie. Banana pudding is another dessert that’s huge in my family. I turned it into a tiramisu! My family also makes a peach cobbler, but I make a peach cobbler shortcake. I like to take Southern-infused things that I grew up with—lots of pound cakes, chess pies, cobblers—and tilt them on their heads.”
5. Her professional path to the kitchen was a long and winding one.
"Next month marks one year of me doing the blog full time! [Before that] my job was producing corporate and university events for four years. [I also did] casting for three years—I worked on a movie with Will Ferrell, Stranger Than Fiction. I’m actually in the credits!”
6. Embracing her culinary side meant overcoming her own preconceptions about it.
"I’d always loved to bake, but as I got older, I veered away from it a little bit. I didn’t know at the time that you could be a feminist and still be in the kitchen and bake. I felt like those two identities were separate. But as I came into my own, I realized that you can be both: It’s all about having a choice to do both.”
7. Though she loves cooking savory stuff, baking dessert is really what inspires her.
"I just think there’s something really magical about dessert. I love savory food, of course, but for me, it always felt like a special occasion if my grandmother made a cake or my favorite peach cobbler."
8. Adams is now working on a cookbook, and no one is prouder than Big Mama.
"I talk to her all the time! She’s super excited about everything—she came to Chicago this summer to take photos for the cookbook, and gets all the magazines when I’m in them. I’m really glad that she’s still around to see this time.”
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